Kenya needs comprehensive industrial water policy

By Soko Directory Team / October 11, 2017


Water is becoming an increasingly paradoxical subject; mainly because it is a universal basic need without which there would be no life, and yet, it is fast becoming the foremost depleted and scarce resource in the world.

It is also the lifeblood of any economy and is vital for the production of single commodities and other goods and services.

This is why Kenya’s economy suffered a setback during the severe drought experienced at the beginning of the year.

KAM Chief Executive, Ms. Phyllis Wakiaga
KAM Chief Executive, Ms. Phyllis Wakiaga

The drought, declared a national disaster, caused a contraction in agricultural activities and a deceleration in the supply of electricity.

According to Kenya National Bureau of Standards, in the last quarter of 2016 and first quarter of 2017, the agriculture sector recorded the first negative growth of 1.1 percent since 2009.

The value of our exports also recorded a decline during this period. Water’s essential quality to our economy, and especially the aspects that drive growth such as industrialisation, is clear.


Economies depend—either directly or indirectly—on industries whose main input is water.

In turn, the effective operation of these industries create a ripple effect in related sectors and supply chains, consequently reaching the consumers.

The direct use of water in production from farm to factory, and in the value chain, combined with the individual uses, will not only increase its economic value but also accelerate its depletion if policy-makers and other stakeholders do not find ways to optimise it in a sustainable manner.

So how can we effectively, plan, develop and manage our national water use for economic growth and sustainability?

One way is by developing an industrial water policy. Kenya is one of the countries ranked by the UN as “chronically water scarce”.

This is because we fall below the global standard benchmark for water adequacy set at 1,000 cubic metres.

Having earmarked industrialisation as one of the vehicles to deliver Vision 2030, we must start paying attention to the role of water as the main ingredient to a thriving and growing industry.

An industrial water policy, therefore will look at the provision, use, distribution, disposal and the reuse of water whilst upholding and replenishing the ecosystem.

The policy would be vital at this time when increased populations in urban spaces erode the natural resilience for water bodies, making them vulnerable to climate change and other environmental shocks.

This diminishes presently available sources of fresh water whilst exacerbating the tension between the ever growing demand for it and the dwindling supply.

An effective industrial water policy will be the framework upon which water governance is formulated to ensure sustainability and accountability.

It will focus on solving key water challenges, by integrating industrial processes towards improving water accessibility, while fostering constructive relations between industry, government and communities.

The policy would need to be contextualised and nuanced, and its implementation tailored to address the unique needs of our country. Its formulation would include diverse stakeholders.

There have been local concerted efforts towards water management in industry such as formation of The Kenya Industrial Water Alliance (KIWA), a platform set-up to bring industry stakeholders together and build a shared understanding of what a water-secure future entails.

Industries and other businesses have realised their individual use of water cannot be viewed in isolation, as increased activity or demand in one sector alters the amount of input, in terms of water, energy or raw material, needed for another sector.

Hence there is bound to be a burgeoning competition for water which reduces the availability for other users.

To address this they came up with KIWA, as a way to track and monitor their use of water, finding ways to adjust their capacity to recycle waste water.

This supplements other efforts such as water audits carried out by the Association of Manufacturers for its members.

That said, the above efforts need to be grounded in a strong and well-structured policy that considers all facets of human life – that is – political, social and economic.

The writer is the CEO, Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the UN Global Compact Network Representative for Kenya —[email protected]

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